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Film / The Legend of Bagger Vance

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"Inside each an' every one of us is one true authentic swing, somethin' we was born with, somethin' that's ours and ours alone, somethin' that can't be taught or learned, somethin' that got to be remembered."
Bagger Vance
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The Legend of Bagger Vance is a 2000 film, based on a 1995 book, directed by Robert Redford, and starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, and Charlize Theron, about a golf match in the 1930s and one golfer's struggle to overcome his past.

In 1931 a major golf tournament is scheduled in the town of Savannah, Georgia, between the greatest golfers of the day: Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch), Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill), and Rannulf Junuh (Damon). While Jones and Hagen are both at the top of their game, Junuh has many unresolved issues that hinder his performance. With the help of his caddy Bagger Vance (Smith), former girlfriend Adele Invergordon (Theron), and young Hardy Greaves (J. Michael Moncrief), Junuh must overcome his demons and find his swing if he is to have a chance of winning the tournament.


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Tropes:

  • Adapted Out: Junuh is a widower with a daughter in the book but the film omits the girl.
  • Almighty Janitor: Bagger is just Junuh's caddy (and in the book a fellow war veteran who became his valet afterwards) but clearly holds a great deal of power and everyone recognizes how much Junuh relies on him.
  • Angel Unaware: Bagger is clearly a mystical figure but is there on earth and might not always realize it.
  • Backhanded Apology: After Junuh's dismal performance in the first round, Adelle finds him and apologizes for humiliating him, then turns around and says it's not her fault, he's the one to blame.
  • Book-Ends: The film starts and ends with the elderly Hardy Greaves in the present playing a game of golf himself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bagger, again.
  • Determinator: To keep from having to sell Crew Island, Adelle goes and finds Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen and convinces them to play in her tournament. She's very polite, and a little sneaky, but it's clear she won't take "no" for an answer.
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  • Down to the Last Play: On the last hole, Junuh has one chance to sink his putt or he'll lose to Jones and Hagen.
  • Driven to Suicide: Adelle's father shoots himself after opening day of Crew Island, thanks to the Great Depression robbing him of almost all potential visitors, and having no money left to his name.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on a 1995 novel by Steven Pressfield.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator / Nostalgic Narrator: The now-elderly Hardy Greaves. This was the last film role for Jack Lemmon, who narrates in voiceover and has a brief onscreen cameo at the end.
  • Flashback: The entire movie is Hardy remembering it as an old man.
  • Friendly Rival: Bobby and June get along well enough, and eventually Hagen comes to be respectful towards as well.
  • The Great Depression
  • Jerk Jock: Hagen definitely plays the part, especially when Junuh catches up strongly after the second round.
  • The Legend of X
  • Magical Negro: Bagger Vance, of course. This point was the cause for a lot of critics to lambaste the film on grounds of being racially insensitive.
    • Actually makes sense in context, as Krishna is often depicted as Black.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Hagen ,who enjoys the most luxuries of the three golfers and wears a fancy suit onto the green.
  • Meditation Powerup: How Bagger helps Junuh.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In the book, Adelle is just the enterprising owner of the golf course and has little to no direct interaction with Junuh. In the film she was his girlfriend before the war and they get back together.
  • Redemption Quest: For Junuh. Who lets go of his guilt and drinking to save the towns business.
  • Scenery Porn: There are quite a few sweeping shots of picturesque greens and courses.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Junuh carries a lot of baggage from his wartime experiences. In the book he's upset over having killed a group of German soldiers. In the film He's traumatized about all of the men under his command dying in an ambush.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Played with. Junuh makes his putt; the other two don't, which ends the tournament in a three-way tie - an outcome everyone is perfectly happy with.
  • War Is Hell: Junuh discovers this the hard way when his entire unit is killed, save for him.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Junuh calls an extra stroke on himself after his ball moves a smidgen but no one but him, Hardy, and Bagger see it.
  • Whole Plot Reference: American audiences might not immediately realize it, but the entire story is based on the Bhagavad Gita, part of the Mahabharata. Just as Krishna helps Arjuna understand his place in the universe in the Bhagavad Gita, so too does Bagger Vance help Junuh find peace in the film. The name Rannulf Junuh (R. Junuh) is a reference to Arjuna, while the name Bagger Vance sounds similar to bhagavan, an epithet of Krishna. This aspect of the story is more outright spelled out in the novel.
  • World War One: The war Junuh went off to fight in.
  • Worthy Opponent: Jones, before the last round, tells Junuh he's playing his last 18 holes, and names Junuh an opponent he's proud to be playing with. Neither give the slightest ground, though, when the game's on.


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